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Have you ever closely observed the clothes that you wear? Have you ever thought about how the fibre to fabric conversion process takes place? Have you ever thought about how the cloth you are wearing right now was designed before? All the clothes you wear and which you see around are in a mere fibre before they are made to undergo multiple processes, leading to a finished product.
Let us try to understand how the whole journey of a cloth begins and how it is converted from fibre to fabric. Then, we’ll dive deeper into the types of fabric.
The clothes you wear result from multiple procedures that a single strand of fibre has to go through. If you observe a thread carefully, it is a result of many small adjoining components together. Those small components are called Yarn. Now, if we try breaking down the yarn more, each yarn breaks down into a finer component called Strand. In short, fabrics are constructed out of yarns and yarns are constructed up of strands.
Now that we have understood what fibres are, let us try to understand more about how these fibres come into existence. Various types of fibres are used to produce a cloth. Some of them are as follows:
Fibres obtained from plants and animals are called natural fibres. Cotton and jute are examples of some plant fibres. Wool and silk are the fibres obtained from animals. Wool is obtained from sources like the fleece of sheep and goat, hair of animals like rabbits, yaks and camels. The silk fibre is obtained by processing the cocoon of the silkworm.
As long as the history of mankind dates back, only natural fibres were being used by humans for satisfying their clothing needs. Since the advent of industrialisation and other technological advancements were accelerated, chemical-based substances were being used for production only in the last hundred years. The fabrics that are produced by using chemical processes are called Synthetic Fibres. There are various fabrics in the world, depending on which source they are obtained from. Some of the examples of synthetic fibres are polyester, nylon and acrylic.
Cotton is a plant-based fibre that is grown as a crop in the fields. Cotton crops are cultivated regions which are rich in black soil and have a warm climate. The fruits of a cotton crop are about the size of a lemon called cotton bolls. After the crop achieves maturity, the balls burst open, and seeds covered with the cotton fibre are clearly visible.
Jute fibres are obtained from the stem of the jute plant. The jute plant is normally harvested when it reaches the flowering stage. The stems after harvesting, are immersed in water which makes it easy to separate them by hand.
Yarn can be spun using various processes that range from manually operated mechanisms to complex machinery; from the charkha that Mahatma Gandhi popularised during India’s Independence movement to industrialisation advancements promoting high-speed machinery. Some of the processes of weaving the yarn and converting from yarn to fabric are as follows:
As we had earlier discussed the breaking down of a cloth, a fabric is constructed by weaving two sets of strand together. This process is known as Weaving. Weaving was a very popular process of constructing a fabric before the machinery existed. This traditional hand weaving moved on to machinery when looms came into existence.
You must have seen in many tales in our storybooks and cartoons on television where grandma knits sweaters for her grandchildren. Here, you must’ve observed that knitting starts with a single yarn, which is then converted into an entire piece of fabric! This is a process done completely on hand as well as machines.
The history of mankind has been a progressive journey where we started with natural sources of fabric to using chemically processed synthetic fabrics. From constructing handmade fabric to using advanced machinery to knit the fabric, we have seen it all! It is really important to understand where the fibre comes from and how it is converted into the end product of fabric to differentiate them according to their uses.
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